Forget Sugar—Brazzein Is the New Healthier Alternative

Kelsey Clark

Sugar and high-fructose corn syrup are nearly synonymous with "calories" and "weight gain" as far as popular culture is concerned. While low- and no-calorie alternatives like Splenda tried to serve as a healthy replacement, some scientists argue that these artificial sweeteners are actually worse for you than the real thing.

This week, scientists made progress on a new, plant-based sugar successor that's just as sweet as the real thing: brazzein. A fruit protein, brazzein is extracted from the berry of a West African plant known as Oubli and purified into a mineral-like substance—a process that has proven commercially unsuccessful in the past due to limited resources.

Yesterday, however, a team of scientists from South Korea broke ground on a new method that may allow for mass-production of the natural sweetener. Led by Kwang-Hoon Kong, the team successfully used yeast to churn out large amounts of brazzein for the first time. The protein produced by this process was reportedly 2000 times sweeter than sugar and had no bitter after tastemaking it a realistic, cost-effective alternative.

Whether or not brazzein will take hold as the natural sweetener of the future still remains to be seen. But, at the very least, the advancements made by Kwang-Hoon Kong and team are a sign of commercial potential for the healthier alternative. 

What do you think of brazzein's potential? Share your thoughts below and taste-test brazzein's cousin, stevia, in the meantime.

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